For those of us who have been ghosted, Rosie Walsh’s debut novel Ghosted is, in a lot of ways, a cathartic experience.
I had a pretty rough time last year because I was ghosted by someone I cared about after six months. It took me a long time to work through that experience and, because it’s an awful trend that a lot of people don’t take seriously, I take every opportunity to tell my story. I never want others to feel alone in their ghosting. I even told my story on an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Why Oh Why. (I’m the girl who met her ghost on a trip to Europe.)
So imagine my intrigue when I found out that there was a book that validated my experience and the experience of so many others. As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to read Rosie Walsh’s Ghosted right away.
For being written by an author that has never been haunted by a ghost, Ghosted gets quite a lot right. I saw myself in so many inner monologues and dialogues between the main character and her friends. I said and did a lot of what Sarah did in her quest to find out why someone she cared for severed ties without being decent enough to tell her about it. For the first time, I felt like a book got me.
But no book is perfect. For all of the details Ghosted gets right, there are a couple of major aspects of being ghosted that the novel gets wrong.
So, if you’ve never been ghosted (or if you have and you’re looking to commiserate), this is what Rosie Walsh’s Ghosted gets right — and wrong — about being ghosted.
*Note: I’m trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but if you’d like to go into Ghosted knowing nothing, you may want to stop reading right… about… here.
What ‘Ghosted’ gets right about being ghosted
After being ghosted by someone you care about, you see them everywhere (when they’re not actually there).
It’s almost enough to drive you crazy. You do double-takes with anyone who looks even vaguely like your ghost. Moments from the past seep into what you see in the present, super-imposing themselves at the most random moments. It’s impossible to get your ghost off your mind when you can’t help but see them in the faces and windows you pass on the street. Though there aren’t many instances of this in Ghosted, it was reassuring to see Sarah, the novel’s main character, do a double (or even triple) take from time to time.
You can’t help but be jealous of — and even bitter about — other couples.
I’m genuinely happy for everyone who is happy. I want happiness for all. But, after being ghosted, I found myself resenting those who were happy. They had what I wanted. What I thought I’d had. Even just being around happy couples can be painful for those trying to move past their ghosting. While it’s never great to feel this way, I found it validating to see Sarah react to all of her best friends (and their healthy relationships) with a twinge of the green monster.
It’s hard to concentrate on anything.
After Eddie (the ghost in this novel) cuts off all communication, Sarah can’t stop thinking about him and the time they spent together. It gets in the way of her work, interactions with others, and even sleep. When you can’t stop thinking about your ghost (in terms of what happened, what they’re doing, and if they’re thinking about you), it’s practically impossible to think about anything else. Ghosting is not conducive to productivity.
‘What ifs,’ both logical and illogical, run through your head repeatedly.
What if they died? What if they got into an accident? What if their phone broke and they never saw your messages? What if I said something that offended them? These questions that rush through Sarah’s head in Ghosted rushed through mine as well. When someone you feel close to disappears, you can’t help but think about the worst case scenarios. All illogical and improbable scenarios become possible when all communications stop.
You use Facebook Messenger as a lifeline.
Texting is normally a great form of communication, but the fact that most of us have our read receipts turned off hurts those of us who have been ghosted. Thankfully, Messenger believes in “sent” AND “read” receipts. Before reading this novel, I honestly thought I was the only one who moved a lot of my messaging to Messenger just so I could see when (or if) my ghost read what I had to say. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, but it was a slight comfort knowing that my messages had at least reached him. Using Messenger instead of other forms of communication is a small action, so I appreciated Ghosted including it.
You use technology to check for signs of life.
After being ghosted, Sarah lives her life on her phone, constantly looking for a sign that something terrible hasn’t happened to Eddie. She looks for Messenger read receipts, Facebook status updates, and text bubbles. She also looks for recent posts from others or Eddie’s replies to comments. When your ghost is someone you care about, even a little, you can’t help but worry about their well-being. Technology helps to ease a mind that’s coming up with worst case scenarios and ruminating on thoughts of sudden death.
You think if you send one more long pleading message, you’ll hear back from them.
Though I didn’t send nearly as many messages to my ghost as Sarah did (partially because I knew my ghost for six months before he cut ties, whereas Sarah knows hers for only a week and feels the need to constantly explain herself), the mentality behind constantly messaging is heartbreakingly accurate. In a ghosting situation, the only thing the victim feels like they have is words. Maybe if they say the right thing, the silence will end. And so, the victim keeps trying to find that one thing that will bring their ghost back to life.
Your friends will eventually get frustrated with your inability to let go.
I want to preface this by saying that my friends are the best. I love them. But there’s only so much anyone can listen to someone talk about a story with a dead end. Only so long a person can witness their friend suffer and wallow in their suffering. In Ghosted, Sarah has wonderful friends but their patience and empathy has limits. They’re not mean, but they do their best to try to snap Sarah out of her sadness and make her see reason (which then makes Sarah feel defensive).
It hurts to lose the race to unfriend/unfollow them.
About 2/3 of the way through the novel, just when she thinks she’s starting to get over him, Sarah goes to unfriend Eddie on social media only to find that he severed the tie first. Her subsequent spiral is something I, too, experienced. When you’re ghosted, you’re in a relative place of powerlessness, so having some sort of power over any connection to your ghost is a big deal. But when they take that from you as well, it can feel like being ghosted all over again.
What ‘Ghosted’ gets wrong about being ghosted
There’s never a ‘good reason’ to ghost someone.
As the book’s synopsis sort of alludes to, the story ends up arguing that there’s a good reason for Eddie to have ghosted Sarah. Sure, in context, it’s relatively compelling and makes sense, but here’s the thing: Regardless of the reason one may give, it’s never ok to ghost someone. Ghosting is the coward’s way out of a relationship. Though nobody owes anyone else an explanation of why they no longer speak or see them, it’s common decency to say something. The turn in this novel that shines light on the reason (and the subsequent consequences) isn’t thrilling or romantic. It’s a flimsy excuse for the inexcusable.
It’s never the ghosted person’s fault for being ghosted.
I can’t speak to the events in the book because anything I say beyond the above would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that the blame for ghosting is all on the ghost. No matter the context or what the ghosted person may have said or done, the ghost made the decision to disappear. Putting the blame on the one left behind to suffer the consequences furthers the notion that it’s acceptable to completely cut ties with someone you’re involved with without notice. I understand where the book was coming from, but the decision to put some blame on Sarah didn’t sit as well with me as the other aspects of ghosting that the book got right.